The Edmonton Tourist visits Edmonton’s Metropolis

Winter forgot to come to Edmonton this year. NOT that I am complaining… with 6 foot snow piles last year, this is a welcome relief! There is more brown grass in my front yard than snow. The weather the last two weeks was absolutely BALMY! Meaning we had a day or 4 of temps ranging from 7C to11C! that is 20 degrees ABOVE normal! This has been fantastic for those of us who decided not to engage in winter sports this year like skating, skiing and tobogganing. I prefer luge or skeleton…but what are you going to do? Winter forgot to come to Edmonton this year.

The lack of winter didn’t stop me from wanting to get outside and enjoy the sunshine or the easy walking without boots! So what did I do? I played tourist in my city on Saturday and went downtown to enjoy the winter festival new to Edmonton this year, Metropolis.

Edmonton has a bit of a reputation for being “Festival City” Every week there seems to be yet another festival or special event in our City. Sunday was “Deep Freeze” a different winter festival, it shouldn’t be confused with “Ice on Whyte” yet another winter festival. I must admit, it is kind of fun to have all these events all over the city. As a regular festival goer, these events are starting to feel the same to me. That may not be fair, since each event is very different. Maybe I am reaching event burnout.

Metropolis is located in Edmonton’s downtown core at Winston Churchill Square, located across the street from City Hall in the heart of the Art’s District. I really enjoy spending my free time down here. I love the Art Gallery, The Windspear Center and The Citadel Theatre. Eventually the Royal Alberta Museum will be re-located here as well. The City has done a great job of keeping the square busy and fun. There is ice skating in the winter and a wading pool in the summer. Mayor Mandell asked the square to have something put into it for the winter. So someone called a couple of architects and this is what they came up with:

At night they are lit up with LED’s and remind me of Northern Lights. That is where the excitement ends. The Community Center changes it’s exhibits each week. I saw Night of Artists It should have been Night of Art Sale. There was nothing I had to have, although the work was perfectly lovely. The Taste of Edmonton needs to be renamed The Taste of Edmonton Food Courts, with the exception of Zinc, it was meh…even Zinc just offered sliders and chili. The children’s pavilion I heard was expensive and cost prohibitive, the Beer Tent isn’t very family friendly so we avoided that.

What is missing to make this festival feel alive and fun? Disney has it right when they pipe in music into the background. That would help. Last winter the square had bon fires and smores…it needed fires. Gathering around flames is one of those weird pyromania things us Canucks like to do. It generates conversation and laughter, music and friendship. Hay rides would have been a nice addition too! Maybe some street hockey! I am not the only one who was disappointed by this festival. Paula Simons from The Edmonton Journal wrote this:

From a distance, the Metropolis-filled square looks quite striking.

But pretty shells do not a fun festival make.

I went down to Metropolis International Winter Festival this Sunday and found myself baffled at the lack of activities…

… Edmonton visual artist and festival promoter Giuseppe Albi says. “Our festival is very much about creating these enclosures. In the future, we need to develop programming. We want people to say, ‘Hey, we like this idea, and we want to help you animate this.’”

It’s a perplexing backward way to mount a festival. You can’t just put up four fine tents and tell your guests to amuse themselves. Edmontonians have high festival expectations and the Metropolis International Winter Festival, despite its grand name, just doesn’t meet them.

She is right. I have high expectations. The city often is filled with first class festivals like The Fringe and Folkfest. This one left me flat. The buildings are cool on the outside. scaffolding and plywood on the inside is ugly. The festival creators are looking for people to develop future activities and sponsor tents. I’m a big believer in put up or shut up…but I am not sure this kind of event can be saved when 80% of the funds go to the buildings and there is no substance to make them come alive. This reinforces the fact that it’s people that bring things to life, not buildings.

If you are thinking of going…bring your skates so you have something fun to do after.

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10 thoughts on “The Edmonton Tourist visits Edmonton’s Metropolis

  1. The snow is stuck in Alaska right now 😉
    This Metropo-suck fest does not sound remotely worth getting 2 layers of socks and undies on to go see. I’d rather stay home and play Scrabble!
    The Fringe is the best festival (I believe), I have a friend who writes plays for the fest, I was even there summer of ’98 selling my hand painted pots with cute little farm animals. My first taste of following a passion and getting paid for it… then I started at the U of A Engineering program and was pulled away from passion 😦 Don’t worry, I found it again 🙂

    1. The Fringe is my favorite too! Scrabble would have been more fun. The upside? hmmm OH Zinc made a banana bread pudding with a carmel/burnt sugar hot sauce….fabulous! and the lights were pretty….and it was warm out 8 degrees 😉

  2. I too was disappointed. They have been trying for as long as I can remember to get a winter festival going. Remember Muk Luk Mardi Gras? 1960’s? Well, they still have not succeeded.

    1. I HAVE! I stayed at the campground, went to the pub, drank Flower’s Best Bitters all night while chatting with a German Tourist. To get to anywhere in London you needed to take the bus to the train and the train to the tube. But that was in 1990…. Ages ago…I’m sure it’s vastly different now.

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